Can the class of '03 relive 20-year-old magic?

Sourav Ganguly finds himself under greater pressure as he attempts to emulate Kapil Dev's feat of winning the World Cup in 1983.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2003 17:06 IST

India captain Sourav Ganguly finds himself under greater pressure as he attempts to emulate Kapil Dev's feat of winning the World Cup in 1983.

There were no expectations from Kapil's Devils, who started out as a bunch of no-hopers, having won just one match against lowly East Africa in the previous two World Cups in 1975 and 1979.

But Ganguly's team will be rated strong contenders after winning nine of their 10 matches in this tournament before Sunday's final against reigning champions Australia at the Wanderers here.

All-rounders were the key to India's success in England two decades ago when they stunned two-time champions West Indies in the final at Lord's.

Kapil, one of the best all-rounders of his era, had at his disposal Mohinder Amarnath, Madan Lal and Roger Binny who were capable of chipping in with both bat and ball at crucial stages.

Ganguly, on the other hand, has just two all-rounders in Sanjay Bangar and Ajit Agarkar, both of whom have been confined to the benches since the tournament began.

India, however, have the most potent weapon of them all in Sachin Tendulkar, a batting genius who can single-handedly alter the course of a match.

Australian captain Ricky Ponting conceded his team had to be wary of "that little fella who opens the batting" because "he is the best batsman I've seen or played against".

Tendulkar has made up for the absence of all-rounders by amassing a record 669 runs in 10 matches, the highest ever in World Cup history.

Kapil's team also possessed a master batsman in Sunil Gavaskar, but the champion opener was neither in good form nor had a Tendulkar-like reputation in the shorter version of the game.

Few gave India a chance to win the World Cup when Kapil's team was shot out for 183 in the final by Clive Lloyd's West Indians that boasted batsmen of the calibre of Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes.

But the medium-pacers changed the script as Madan, Mohinder, Binny and Balwinder Sandhu shared nine wickets to bowl their rivals out for 140.

Binny finished as the tournament's highest wicket-taker with 18 victims. Madan (17) and Kapil (12) also figured among the top-10 bowlers.

"We have always underestimated out medium-pacers because of the stress on spin, but they have served us well," Kapil said later.

Kapil led from the front, his batting, bowling and captaincy coming in for praise from all quarters.

He played the knock of his lifetime against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells when he smashed a brilliant 175 after his team had been reduced to 17-5 and then 140-8.

Kapil also took a splendid running catch in the final to dismiss Richards, which turned the match in India's favour.

Like Kapil, Ganguly has also impressed with his leadership, besides notching up three centuries to follow Tendulkar in the batsmen's honours list with 441 runs.

His weapons have, like Kapil's, also come from the unexpected pace department instead of India's known strength in spin.

Zaheer Khan has 18 wickets in the tournament, followed by veteran paceman Javagal Srinath with 16 and Ashish Nehra on 15, allaying pre-tournament fears that India did not have bowlers to win matches.

But India's fortunes rest on one man, the "little fella" who has already made this World Cup his own.

First Published: Mar 21, 2003 17:06 IST